Mountains rise up around the small town of Ollantaytambo.

The town of Ollantaytambo, Peru. Photo © magickevin, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

There are several NGOs in Ollantaytambo worth contacting if you’re looking for volunteer and homestay opportunities. Based in Ollantaytambo, Awamaki (Calle Convención s/n, across from the temple), founded by American Kennedy Leavens, is a Peruvian NGO partnered with a U.S. NGO of the same name that administers a weaving project with Quechua women and promotes health, education, and sustainable tourism. They have been instrumental in helping weavers in Patacancha and other communities restore their ancient weaving techniques and find sustainable ways to market their products. Awamaki can arrange all kinds of volunteer experiences, Spanish-language programs, homestays, excursions to the communities outside of Ollantaytambo, and classes in ceramics, basket weaving, and cooking. A highly recommended experience is Awamaki’s weaving class in Patacancha.

Cultural note: You will rarely hear Peruvians refer to themselves as mestizo, and note that the word indio is considered derogatory, so use either indigeno or Quechua.

Another NGO is Living Heart, founded by Sonia Newhouse, who owns Heart’s Cafe on the Plaza de Armas. Living Heart aims to improve the quality of life for disadvantaged Andean children and has volunteering opportunities.

Ollantaytambo’s elementary school has a foundation organized by Ania, a Lima-based NGO that helps instill the love of nature in children. More information about the project can be found at Tierra de Niños Ollantaytambo.

Excerpted from the Second Edition of Moon Machu Picchu.